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Top 5 Must-Have Pieces for Every Cosplayer

Posted by Carmen Benzine on Jul 29th 2022

Cosplay can take hours of research, testing, and construction. Each piece comes together to create a visual and craft masterpiece. So what are the most essential parts that you should focus on? Here are my top five pieces to prioritize.

1. Foundation

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Image from Cosplay Foundations (C&T Publishing, 2022)

These pieces are the base, literally, of your cosplay. If this is unstable, the whole thing could fall apart. It’s essential to have a well-fitting and functional foundation so the design can truly shine. Foundations can include hoop skirts, corsets, body suits, leggings - anything under your cosplay to give it shape or help functionality. 

You can use everyday clothes as a starting point. Use your worn-in leggings, that hair dye-stained T-shirt, anything you can pin, snip, or glue that you know won't let you down. Hoop skirts, crinoline, and corsets are a bit harder to do that with. I recommend starting with these a few months before you need the completed product so you can do returns or modifications without rushing. They don’t have to be pretty, but you definitely need them.

2. Wigs

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Image from The Art of Extreme Wig Styling (C&T Publishing, 2021)

Sometimes, characters can be recognized solely on their hair - I’m looking at you, Betty Boop, Princess Leia, and Merida. Because of this, wigs are crucial to iconic cosplay. Make sure to research which wig type would work best for you - synthetic, human hair, lace front - there are so many! 

Not only is the look important, but knowing how to secure your wig is equally critical. No one wants to see Rapunzel's hair falling off. Knowing how to secure your wig with gel, pins, wire, or foam can ensure your hair looks flawless even after eight hours at a con.

3. Shoes

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Image from Fabulous Cosplay Footwear (C&T Publishing, 2021)

Like hair, shoes can be a main focal point of a cosplay. Bayonetta wouldn’t be caught without her gun shoes. Sometimes having the right shoes is as easy as going to the mall, but many times the base shoe needs to be modified somehow or even created from scratch. To those creating epic ballgowns, no one will know you’re wearing sneakers. 

The main thing is making sure the shoe is comfortable before modifying it. If you’re walking around a con in too small shoes, you’ll know very quickly. Breaking in the shoes before the complete crafting process can help determine if those are the shoes you truly want. 

Also, if you’re modifying shoes to be something like animal hooves or paws, make sure you can walk in them as normally as possible. Test out different angles or weights before laying anything down permanently.

4. Props

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Image from Level Up! Creative Cosplay (C&T Publishing, 2022)

Props — whether a staff, a weapon, a book, or a little sidekick — can complete a cosplay. An otherwise unassuming outfit can become instantly recognizable - like Eleven with her Eggo box or a Pokémon trainer with pokéballs. 

Typically people also ask to hold the prop, so make sure the construction is solid enough to be passed around or used on many occasions. 

Testing different materials can also be helpful, so you know it’s light enough to carry for long periods or epic poses for pictures without sweating. Foam of some kind is usually your best friend.

5. Storage

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Image from "How To Add Pockets To Your Cosplay" Guide by Casey Renee Cosplay (Cosplay Central, 2021)

It’s always a pain when you don’t have anywhere to put your phone or keys. A corset leaves little room for breath, let alone a phone. If a tag-along buddy isn’t an option, adding pockets or a bag to your cosplay can make your convention experience much more enjoyable.

Some cosplays lend themselves to storage: Jack Sparrow has a satchel, Doctor Who typically has a long trench coat, and Dora the Explorer has her backpack. If your character doesn’t have convenient storage, you can add some yourself without taking away from the cosplay itself.

A thigh or hip holster can be used under large ballgowns or billowy fabrics. I’ve seen props turned into storage, such as opening a plush to make room for a pouch. Pockets can be added to an in-progress or completed outfit with little modification. Here’s the perfect example on how to do that.

Cosplay has an amazing community and brings together people from all walks of life. I hope these tips help and don’t forget to check out our cosplay books for more in-depth techniques. 

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